Newsflash: You’re Not A Fucking Brand

woman wearing white one piece suit during daytime
Zoran Zonde Stojanovski / Unsplash

Brand names. What comes dancing into my mind?

For me, it’s opening a bag of Doritos. I imagine the squeak of the plastic-hugged bag squiggling between my thumbs as I pull it open from end to end. The olfactory punch of the first MSG-laden current of air ti invade my nostrils. And the classic, consistent, offensively cheesy spice that immediately makes my taste buds sweat. I don’t even like Doritos. But the brand is one I understand. It’s consistent. It’s ubiquitous. It’s predictable in its ever-presence. It’s visible.

Doritos is a brand. Starbucks is a brand. Walmart is a brand. The computer you’re reading this on…that’s a brand. And you, I hope, are not. I hope you are a person.

Brands live for their customers. They exist to please; to sell. I hope you exist to cater to your own curiosities; to hunt down and eat your own desires. I hope you do this for you, and not for your audience. Or, “audience.” I hope you feel like the only one keeping an eye on you is the best version of yourself, her arms crossed, smirking and nodding.

Brands are for consumption. You are for connection.

Brands fail when they break consistency. You do not need to look the same. You do not need to homogenize your emotions, experiences, friendships or adventures. You do not need to theme out your life into perfect squares and color schemes. I know it feels like you do; but that’s only if you see yourself as a brand.

Brands are polite. And when they are intentionally impolite, that’s “part of their brand.” And when they unintentionally step out of line, they are offensive. *Cue the PR cleanup. How lame. How predictable.

Speaking of predictable, I hope that you, unlike a brand, do not stick one method of slicing through life. I hope you are as predictable as the type of sunset that crashes a late summer beach party. The sunset always happens, but you just don’t know what the sky has in store until they are sprawled naked across the sky.

Being a brand is listening to the same playlist each day. Being a brand is omitting songs that don’t fit, even if they might grow on you. Even if they represent a tone-deaf element of who you are. You can be out of tune. You can be a new playlist every day.

Brands solve problems with protocol. You have permission to solve problems in new ways. You have the right to be inventive with strategy. You have permission to navigate with your heart. You’re not a formal operation. You are not predictable like a customer service line at Target. You are not the music you hear on hold when you call Southwest. You are not “Have a nice day” with absolutely no guts or gusto behind it. You are not a hashtag. You are human.

You are human, like a friend who listens. You are human, like a partner who shows up to water her friend’s plants when she’s out of town. You’re dependable and you show the fuck up. You are heart and soul. You are whole. But you are not a brand.

You have a dependable frame, but an unpredictably wild capacity for unexpected compassion and connection.

Brands follow rules and guidelines. I hope you eat the rules, shit them out, and smear the walls of hell with them. And if a brand is based on breaking rules, it’s not actually breaking them. It’s making new ones. Which, counterintuitively, is the same thing as following rules.

You don’t live within those parameters. Instead, the only rule you have is to have guts – always. You are constructed with an ethical scaffolding underpinning your bones, but don’t dare tell me that’s the same as rules. That is heart. That’s human.

Brands stay alive with marketing; attention-grabbing, catchiness, pseudo-hype and excitement. You don’t have to sell us on on your worth. Nothing you can tell us, show us, shake us with should make us feel more in love with you than you are with yourself. You are a human being, not a brand.

If you really think you’re a brand, that means you believe you have to sell yourself – present your selling points- to be heard. To be seen. To be loved and adored.

Brands sell products. What do you sell?

Hopefully, you don’t sell out.

You’re not a fucking brand.

And if you actually are one…I sincerely and heartily applaud you. I hope you have made a cognizant choice to sell something you believe in, with your face as the packaging, and your heart as the engine in the boiler room. I hope you are aren’t under the impression that your branding is anything, although it may be efficient and successful, other than a sales method. I hope you believe in what you are selling, especially if it’s yourself.

But at some point, beware that being a brand instead of just being a, well, being, will nibble at you well-being.

If you just think you need to brand yourself to be seen and heard within your small audience of friends and family, or community, I beg you to reconsider. I beg you to return to posting what feels good, rather than what looks consistent, sounds perfect or is “on-brand.”

Unless you are leading a company, are a public figure (or aspiring one, and are aware of the well-being consequences of this) or are selling products or services, I ache for you to take a deep look at if you want to be a brand in this world…or if you just want to be yourself.

You might have to be a brand to be seen these days. But you don’t have to be a brand to be loved. TC mark

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